28 July -3 August 2017 #869

Good news in Madi

After much bad press Madi finally has some good news to share: it has a mayor after 15 years without locally-elected representatives
Om Astha Rai

The Madi Valley, which crosses the protected forests of Chitwan National Park, has always been in the headlines, but for the wrong reasons.

A deadly Maoist land mine that blew up a passenger bus at Badarmude on 5 July 2005, killing 38 people. Two soldiers who had boarded the bus, and were probably the target, had got off already. So powerful was the blast that the bus was lifted 25m into the air, eye witnesses said, killing most of the passengers sitting inside. Those who were clinging to the roof and back of the bus survived, but were severely injured.

That was the single worst Maoist attack during the conflict, and was dubbed a crime against humanity by human rights activists.  Maoist leaders, too, later admitted that it was “a grave mistake”. 

In 2012, seven years after the Madi massacre, 40-year-old widow, Dhegani Devi Mahato, was burnt alive by her own relatives who accused her of practising witchcraft. Eight people were sentenced to life in prison for torturing and feeding her faeces before killing her.

“When I say I am from Madi, people say ‘oh, that place of the bus blast’ or ‘oh, that place where a woman was burnt alive’,” says Ram Krishna Timalsina. “All I can say is yes, the memories of those crimes continue to haunt us.”

Then in December 2012 a wild elephant called Dhrube ran amok, trampling several people to death here. The tusker had bene in the news as the Park tried to trap it without success. Then it deployed sharpshooters to try to kill it, but the elephant disappeared into the wild, and has been unheard of since.  

Now, after much bad press Madi finally has some good news to share: it finally has a mayor after 15 years without locally-elected representatives, Maoist candidate Thakur Dhakal (pic, above). 

The Maoists were not expected to win the mayoral race here, but Dhakal pulled off a surprise victory partly because Madi is now a municipality composed of four erstwhile VDCs. Badarmude voted against the Maoists for the 2005 bus bomb, but there appeared to be people in other parts of the municipality who support ex-rebels.

Dhakal also won because of his straightforward commitment to development. Elected as a VDC Chair in 1997, people still trust him as a man committed to local progress. Since being elected, Dhakal has already worked with Park authorities to improve the dirt road that cuts through the jungle, making it easier for locals to travel.

“Burns caused by fire will heal through fire,” he says. “Similarly, the wounds caused by Maoists in Madi can only be healed by the Maoists. As mayor of Madi, I will do my best to reconcile with the victims of the bomb by building a peace park and providing jobs to families of the victims.” 

Read also:

Truth and memory, Ram Kumar Bhandari

Mass murder in Madi, Kanak Mani Dixit

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